National Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke on March 3, 2010 regarding the transformation of schools. Surprisingly ( or not so much so if you have followed him) he does not talk of a new national reform model or new federal regulations. Instead, he talks of the very real reality that our educational system is sluggish at best in meeting the needs of the demands of a technology-driven society.
Arne outlines the gaps that exist between caucasian students and students who are categorized as minorities in test scores and graduation rates at both the high school and college levels. It has been the constant narrative from the very begnning of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Refreshingly, however Secretary Duncan talks about an even larger gap that has a direct impact on classroom instruction, and a much larger impact on student engagement: technology use in the classroom.
It is encouraging to hear that the senior most education administrators is addressing some of the most challenging problems that are facing our public schools. What’s even more encouraging, however, is the emphasis that is given by administrators at the state and local levels as is the case at Glen Clove School District and the Virginia Department of Education.
As Arne Duncan states, our federal government must be “loose” enough to allow local and state decision makers to implement technology, as they would know (or should know) their population of students best.
One example is Shari L. Camhi’s perspective of district-wide technology implementation as an assistant superintendent. Glen Cove School District, the 2009 Sylvia Charp Award winner, disseminated technology to schools based on a needs analysis. With limited funds, each grade level received different technology based on their curriculum. Teachers were required to engage in professional development throughout their first three years of service in the district. This is now a model school.
In Virginia, technology implementation was established by the state government. Through the employment of instructional technology resource teachers, (that do not have shared teaching responsibilities) classroom teachers had the much-needed ongoing support to learn not only how to use the technology, but how to integrate it for use and production.
It seems from all three levels of government, technology is being promoted as a transformational tool. Tests scores (not the only way to measure success by far) are increasing according to two of these articles.
Six common themes are presented throughout these three articles:
1. Needs assessments
4. System-Wide Support (human and financial capital)
5. Expectations/Outcome driven
6. Ongoing support and training
I mention the most important point first. In my experience in a school that would be considered technology advanced, I found that I had training on how to use the technology, but not how to integrate technology into my lessons in a meaningful way. I learned from other teachers who had time to “play around” with different technology tools that were given. Assessments of how the technology was being used and how to better integrate the technology wasn’t present. It made it quite difficult to use these valuable resources regularly. Expectations in this case were difficult to meet due to the lack of the support.
Looking at the three-prong approach of transforming technology integration in classroom will be needed to close the realities of the educational gaps that persist in this country.